Mercedes-Benz is getting ready to kick off a major push toward plug-in hybrid vehicles, starting with the S-Class and C-Class sedans later this year, and those will eventually be followed by crossovers, including plug-in versions of the GLE-Class (formerly the M-Class) and the 2016 GLC-Class. As a recap, the upcoming GLC-Class is the next-gen version of the GLK, with a new name to better fit with Mercedes’ always-expanding model lineup.

The plug-in version of this crossover will likely be the GLC350 Plug-In, following the same nomenclature as the C350 Plug-In it is based on, that will hit dealers this fall. Around the same time that the plug-in C-Class sedan goes on sale, the standard version of the 2016 GLC-Class will make its official debut (most likely at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show,) but don’t expect to see the plug-in hybrid model until early next year.

With the current styling of most Mercedes-Benz products, and knowing some of the details behind the C350 Plug-In that debuted last month at the Detroit Auto Show, it doesn’t take much guesswork to envision what type of vehicle the 2016 Mercedes GLC350 Plug-In will be.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2016 Mercedes GLC Plug-In Hybrid.

Spy Shots

February 16, 2016 - First testing session

2016 Mercedes GLC Plug-In Hybrid Exterior Spyshots
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2016 Mercedes GLC Plug-In Hybrid Exterior Spyshots
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2016 Mercedes GLC Plug-In Hybrid Exterior Spyshots
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Exterior

Combining a new set of spy shots with known Mercedes styling cues, our car sleuths were able to put together an impressive rendering. Like all other Mercedes plug-in hybrids, the GLC will get its charger plug integrated into the rear fascia just below the passenger-side taillight.

Now, I’ll admit that I’m a little disappointed to see the GLK’s boxy shape disappear, but that being said, the proportions of this crossover might make the best canvas yet for the current design language. The spy shots include cues like the two-bar grille up front and the horizontal, LED taillights at the rear, and the overall roofline is more rounded with a sharper rake to the A- and D-pillars. Adding the known headlight design, aggressive front fascia and requisite body creases finishes off the rendering.

Interior

Like the exterior, there shouldn’t be too many surprises when it comes to the interior of the GLC-Class. The new C-Class sedan should be a good indication of where the GLC’s cabin design is headed with the sedan housing a wide center stack with a trio of circular HVAC vents, and the large infotainment screen is fixed along the top edge. Drivers get all of their information from two large gauges that flank a smaller digital display, and materials are top-notch throughout the cabin. Like the current GLK, the GLC-Class will feature two rows of seating, and while the rounded roof will likely bump up passenger volume, it could also decrease cargo space from its already-compact 16.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats.

Drivetrain

From what is known about the C350 Plug-In, expect the GLC350 Plug-In to pair a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to a seven-speed automatic transmission with an electric motor. The electric power will come from a lithium-ion battery. Total system output should hold steady at 275 horsepower and 443 pound-feet. As far as performance goes, the C350 Plug-In is able to accelerate from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and hit a top speed of 130 mph, but the GLC’s heavier curb weight and added wind resistance should knock a few tenths off that 0-60 time. In all-electric driving, the plug-in C-Class has a range of 20 miles and a top speed of 80 mph, which should carry over to the GLC.

Prices

Mercedes has yet to indicate how much of a premium it will put on its plug-in hybrid technology, but with current GLK-Class pricing starting at $37,900 for the base model and $39,400 for the GLK250 BlueTEC diesel, prices starting well north of $45,000 for the GLC plug-in wouldn’t be surprising.

Competition

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Although a little larger and more expensive than the upcoming plug-in GLC, the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid could end up setting the pace for luxury plug-in crossovers when it goes into production this summer. It’s hard to think of Volvo as a trend-setter (especially when it comes to green technology), but the all-new XC90 should finally get the styling, luxury and technology to be competitive – if not class-leading – in its segment.

The eye-opening part of the XC90 T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid is its spec sheet, which lists combined power output at 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet. This comes from the Volvo Drive-E turbocharged and supercharged gasoline engine paired with an 82-horsepower electric motor. This will give the XC90 plug-in a 0-60 time of less than six seconds, an all-electric driving range of more than 25 miles and fuel economy that has initially been rated at 59 MPGe.

With three rows of seating, the Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in will be one of the most family friendly hybrids on the market, but it won’t come without its cost. In base form, the second-gen XC90 will have pricing that varies from $48,900 for the base model all the way up to $58,895 for the fully loaded XC90 Inscription, so it probably won’t be too difficult to get the plug-in model price into the $60,000 or even $70,000 range.

2017 Audi Q5 e-tron quattro

2009 Audi Q5
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The 2017 Audi Q5 e-tron quattro will come about a year after the GLC plug-in goes on sale sometime in 2017, but there isn’t too much information about the drivetrain technology it will employ. Audi’s first plug-in hybrid will hit the market later this year as the A3 Sportback e-tron, which will combine a turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder engine and a 102-horsepower electric motor for a total system output that is expected to be around 204 horsepower. Following the A3 Sportback e-tron, Audi will start adding plug-in versions of the next-gen cars riding on the VW Group’s MLB platform, including the A4, A6, Q7 and, you guessed it, the Q5. In terms of size and pricing, the Q5 e-tron quattro should be more in line with the GLE rather than the larger XC90.
*Note:Current Audi Q5 pictured here.

Conclusion

Mercedes-Benz has been chasing efficiency as of late, with new models like the small CLA and GLA as well as the B-Class Electric Drive, but moving into the plug-in hybrid market will be a true test for the automaker, as these cars will have a higher volume and a higher premium. By this time next year, Mercedes could have at least three plug-in hybrids in its lineup (C-Class, S-Class and GLE-Class), with the new GLC-Class plug-in on the way. In the end, it will all come down to pricing and performance as to how popular this model will be with consumers, but I, personally, am looking forward to the idea of a right-sized, fuel-efficient and fun-to-drive crossover with all the style and luxury of a modern Mercedes.

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    • Charger plug mounted in the rear
    • GLC losing GLK’s boxy, SUV-like styling
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